School Stereotypes Busted By Experience

It’s embarrassing now to remember just how much and how easily I bought into the media’s manufactured worldview when I was a teenager: the shallow narcissism, the wasted opportunities, the arbitrary hostility, the one-dimensional politics, and, especially, the clearly delineated little pigeon holes into which everybody was neatly forced to fit. 

Those steroetypes are, of course, most clear at school, where the media’s control of youth culture is so blatantly displayed that you’ll quickly find plenty of teenagers actively striving to conform to their preset personalities. 

I’m now in my ninth year of teaching, but it didn’t take more than the first couple of years to completely disabuse my mind of nearly everything I had assumed before.  There are genuine rebels out there; young people who live by their own chosen rules rather than adopting the guise of some media outlet.  They’re just not the ones we’ve been trained to expect.

I could see this post turning into a series.  For now, I’ll focus on just two of our popular assumptions that have been completely obliterated by my observations so far this decade:

Jocks and cheerleaders are dumb.  On the contrary, most all of these kids are stable, kind, and hard working, not to mention usually pretty bright.  In fact, in the schools at which I’ve worked, most of the girls on any given varsity cheer squad are in honors classes.  And though they have a reputation for immature, macho thuggishness, I’ve never once had any kind of problem with a varsity athlete (freshmen are a different story, but I wouldn’t call most of them “athletes,” anyway). 

I think the thing that makes them so decent is that, by the time they get to varsity, these kids have had to learn to discipline themselves and make some sacrifices.  That carries over into the classroom.  Kids without any demanding outside interests tend to be less self-disciplined; they’re the ones who are more likely to be lazy and ignorant, because they’ve never had to rise to any sustained challenge.

“Slackers” are smart kids who just get bored by school.  Ah, where would every teen movie in the last two generations be without this trusty stand-by?  Every selfish kids who hates school has taken to this stereotype like a fish to water, eager to use this as an excuse for their lackluster apathy, and look good doing it! 

But it’s a scam.  Those angsty, disaffected “rebels” are usually not letting themselves fall behind because they’re just so smart that school’s boring.  The truth is, those underachieving kids, even when they are pretty bright and have potential, have probably long since given over their natural mental strength to some specific brand of the media’s ignorance machine, and are missing out on more than they know. 

How many times have I seen a repentant slacker decide to “make up his credits and graduate,” only to find out the hard way, and too late, that he’s lost the ability to concentrate and focus, to the point where he can’t even pass a class?  Swing by the school counselors’ office the last two weeks of school, and you’ll see several of these formerly tough guys broken down in tears.  It’s a tragic and pointless waste.  Thanks, MTV.

2 comments on “School Stereotypes Busted By Experience

  1. Thank you for this truth. There are so many misconceptions about high school students that I frequently find myself defending my choice to teach at this level.

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